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How to Optimize for Google’s Featured & Rich Snippets

January 23, 2019
Table of Contents

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re already pretty familiar with Google’s snippets and what they are. But, just in case you’re new to the complexities and ever-changing world of Google, let’s do a quick review. Then, we’ll jump on into the best ways to optimize for both featured and rich snippets, and how to get them. Let’s be honest, most of us use Google daily and have both seen and interacted with these snippets.

But, we may not have known the exact term for them or how businesses can leverage these features to determine what we see on the search engine results page or SERP (of course there’s an acronym for that!). A featured snippet is that highlighted section which appears at the top and aims to provide answers to the question(s) entered in the search box. Rich snippets on the other hand, include the extra pieces of information that are provided directly within the search results page, such as ratings and price; they appear between the website URL and description.

Featured Snippet vs. Rich Snippet

In today’s online world, it would be hard not to notice the massive changes that have taken place in the way results are displayed in Google’s search results. If you take a look at the search result landscape and the way it looks now, you’ll notice immediately there’s a lot of information that’s pushing the search results down the page. In fact, most of the time position #1 is halfway down the first page.

So, what is this information at the top of the results and how can you be a part of it? As we move on, you should understand more about both featured and rich snippets, the differences and benefits of each.

Rich Snippets: As we mentioned, a rich snippet is an enriched organic search result that contains information very specific to the search query. It provides additional detail
that you’ll find within that webpage without even clicking through. Rich snippets will appear anywhere within the SERP, differentiating them from featured snippets (which always appear at the top of the page). For example, a rich snippet for this article may show breadcrumb navigation and a sentence or two extracted from the article.

In this screenshot you can see a rich snippet for Ireland via Wikipedia – it provides you with additional information directly on the page prior to clicking through.

There are several benefits to having rich snippets or enhanced organic search results, such as: more dedicated space on the SERP, higher click-through-rates (CTR) and ultimately a higher ranking based on your SEO efforts and results.

Featured Snippet: A featured snippet is an answer to a query that appears above the organic search results, and even above the first search result – also known as position zero. This answer is extracted from the displayed webpage and then enhanced to draw user attention to the results – all of course, programmatically determined by Google. These featured snippets or sometimes referred to as “answer boxes”, can appear in several different visual formats such as: paragraph summary (sentence description), list form (step-by-step or how-to answers), or table format (data points or prices).

The goal of a featured snippet is to provide the user with up-front information and reduce clicking through to irrelevant sites or those that don’t answer the question. Here is an example of a featured snippet telling us a little bit more about SEO … Google determined that Moz provided the best answer and therefore gave it the featured snippet and top spot location.

The major benefit of having featured snippets is clear … visibility. If your content provides an answer to the users question it will appear at the top of the SERP organically. Therefore claiming that “position zero”. Organically is a key factor here, you cannot pay for or buy the featured snippet spot, it needs to be earned. But it has to be said that without the creation of featured snippets, your page may still be found at the lonely bottom of the page vs. the highly visible top of page #1. Featured snippets provide an opportunity to be the #1 answer or result.

In addition to answering questions via the featured snippet, you’re also fostering trust. If a reader received a credible answer from your site directly on the SERP they’re more likely to trust your site and click through. When you’re answer is displayed at the top of the SERP, it shows to the reader that Google approves and your answer is deserving of the coveted top spot.

How to Get Featured Snippets

Unfortunately, there’s nothing special you can do or code you can add on your page in order to get a featured snippet on Google. Like we said, it’s Google that programmatically determines what answers get featured. It hasn’t been easy to determine exactly what helps you to appear in these snippets and there’s been some conflicting reports. But, you’re in luck! There are a few steps that you can take and adjustments you can make to the content on your page to ascend that mountain and reach the top of Google’s SERP, including:

  • Ask and answer questions.
  • It may seem obvious, but be sure to repeat the question and answer logically and succinctly.
  • Use appropriate headers (ex: H2 tag) and hierarchical structure.
    • Headings and page structure are important for Google to understand your content and rank it as important.
    • List subheadings chronologically and keep within the recommended word count.
  • Test and research the current answers available for the question you want to win ranking for.
  • Be sure that you have general SEO best practices in place.
  • Utilize keywords and tailor your content.
    • Run a quick audit for keywords that you’re currently ranking for.
    • Use that information to strategize moving forward.

It’s important to note that in order for these steps to be effective you need to already be listed on the first page for that specific query. Optimizing for featured snippets is something that should definitely be incorporated into your overall strategy and goals for the coming year (the sooner the better!).

How to Get Rich Snippets

According to Google, schema markup is the recommended format for implementing structured data into your website. You’ll need to select and mark your content type and insert that into each page of your site in the HTML. Be sure that you provide the information required by Google for your business or organization, such as its URL, name and logo. It’s also a good idea to utilize the tools provided by Google in order to check and test your code. Once you’ve confirmed the accuracy of your code, start checking in on your rich snippets to see if they start populating on the SERP.

Keep in mind though, it may take a few weeks for Google to crawl your page for the updates. Overall, rich snippets can be slightly easier to acquire than featured snippets. If you follow the appropriate steps, you should eventually see the fruits of your labor.

Future of Featured & Rich Snippets

New schema markup is popping up a lot more frequently than in the past and there have been numerous mentions of using structured data to improve search results. Structured data is your online data or content that’s categorized and organized, therefore allowing Google to easily understand and read that content. This is also known as “Schema.org” which can be added using microdata or JSON-LD format. Schema is especially key if you want to rank for voice search results.

Continuing to use or enhancing your structured markup efforts in the future is a no-brainer. It’s even more important with consideration to voice enabled and connected smart devices – you’ll need schema in place to up your chances that those devices can match your content to its voice queries. The search results provided through a voice command are given the featured snippet as verbal answers. Hence, adding another benefit of featured snippets, not only does your answer display at the very top of the SERP, but will be offered as the only answer via voice queries. Google has recently released a new type of Schema for this called “Speakable”. This will tell the search engines which part of your content you feel is the best to read out loud to the user when they search specific questions.

As organizations strive to increase their organic rankings the competitive landscape also increases, making harder to rank high. If you take steps to optimize your already top-performing content, you can further solidify your place at the top Google of SERPs. In today’s world of the internet-of-things (IoT), how we search for and digest online content is constantly evolving. Which means that we as marketers need to stay on our toes and should be committed to constantly learning and educating ourselves.

Our content will not stay on page #1 of the SERPs if we aren’t diligent. But, by taking note of the recommendations listed here and incorporating them into your strategy moving forward, you’ll be well-prepared (as best as you can be!) for the future of featured and rich snippets. See you in the future!


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